I grew up in the epitome of a midwestern home. Meat and potatoes every night for dinner. My uncle was a dairy farmer and my family wouldn’t dare stray outside of their comfort zone, especially when it came to food. If there wasn’t meat on the table, it wasn’t a balanced meal.
My relationship or connection with food was nonexistent. Eating was something I knew I needed to ‘do’ three times a day, but I lacked any awareness of what I was consuming and how it made me feel.
My Transformation: The Year of New
In my early twenties, I started my self-exploration journey. I let my guard down and allowed my curiosity to take me to new places, introduce me to new things, and teach me new ways. Two of these impactful new activities were: yoga and meditation. In the summer of 2013, I had a calling to attend a yoga festival in Boulder, Colorado.
I was a newbie to yoga, so traveling to Colorado to attend a festival by myself, and fully diving into a world of the best-of-the-best and renowned yoga teachers and students, was a big deal to me. Thinking about this now, I’m quite proud of conquering that fear.
I dove in headfirst. My first class of the day was a 4-hour yoga class (no, I’m not kidding). I knew it would be challenging, but I wasn’t prepared for it to change my life.
During the class, we explored touch, mindfulness, and emotions, deep emotions. I cried... I belly-laughed... I felt so many feelings and most profoundly, I changed.
Who Needs Love?
About an hour into this class, the instructor prompted us to close our eyes and “think of someone who needed extra love”. And while I’m fortunate enough to have a tight-knit and healthy relationship with my family, Mya was the one popping into my mind. Mya, at the time, was my 3-year-old golden retriever. I battled it a bit, trying to shake her out of my head and instead fit a human in, but I couldn’t. After a few minutes, I caved and honored the fact she was there and had something to teach me. Here I was envisioning my beautiful, four-legged best friend who had taught me so much about life without trying.
But what was it that I needed to learn from her at that moment?
If you have experience with meditation, you know the mind can move fast. I tuned out what the instructor was saying, and all I could see was her beautiful brown eyes. Her body and her fur started to disappear and all of a sudden, I could match Mya’s eyes to almost any other animal… and then… any other person. It was easy, these eyes that held innocence, curiosity, and love staring back at me, no different than a baby entering the world. There it was, the message was received as clearer than if it was spoken to me at that moment: we’re all the same.
How was it that I could love this dog more than most humans, make her part of my family but treat other animals the way I had my entire life? What was the difference between them besides what society tells us is different? One is a pet, the other is food. That narrative took a fall.
I sat and thought about all the meals I had eaten in my lifetime, and all the innocent lives I selfishly took. It was like a flipbook of animals racing in my mind.
The rest of that class passed by in a blur, but I will never forget that euphoric feeling of knowing something changed within me.
It was an immediate change, but I didn’t know it until it was time for lunch. For the first time, I was able to make the mind and body connection and had the consciousness surrounding my next meal. Did I know what to order? Heck no, let’s not forget my roots of hotdish and meatloaf here.
After the class, I sat down on the grass to regroup, I remember someone coming up to me and saying “wow, you’re glowing” and I burst into tears, again, feeling so many emotions, but mostly feeling grateful.
My Transition Alone
Entering this new world of veganism was exciting, but of course, with any change, came hardship. I didn’t know of anyone else who was vegan or vegetarian. And my newfound lifestyle scared those around me.
It was like I walked around with a big label that most felt compelled to address. I'll never forget being invited to an event to have lunch with a group of 10 people. Upon arriving one of the guests asked “so, when are we having food?” the host burst into a fit rage of “I’m not making food, because I don’t know what *she* can eat”. While I had prepared my own meal for the night, it was no help... it was "the vegan" who had ruined the party.
For about 5 years following this lifestyle change, I still had family and friends constantly asking:
- “But you’ll still eat fish, right?"
- “But what about our ice cream dates?”
- “Are you eating enough?”
- “Are you getting enough protein?”
- “Oh, there’s only a little bit of eggs in this, you’ll be fine”.
I don’t think anyone can prepare you for how mentally exhausting this can be. I lived in Fargo, North Dakota, and this was before the big movement of meat and cheese alternatives, so it was a bit more difficult trying to explain, I can eat what you eat, just with plants.
Slow and Steady
While at the beginning It was a lonely road, it eventually brought me in alignment with the people and places the universe knew I needed.
Veganism has been the best decision for me, my love for beings grew, my level of consciousness was elevated and the rest of my life became aligned. I continued to try new things which eventually led me to travel.
I met Jase in Thailand when we were both backpacking southeast Asia. We had an immediate spark, but when I found out he was vegan, I just knew.
When you are in alignment, the things you yearn for come to you easily.
We are all the same.